Lives of the fellows

Samuel Lazarus

b.22 July 1911 d.3 November 1997
MB ChB Glasg(1933) MD(1937) MRCP(1937) MRCP Glasg(1938) FRCP(1953) MRCP Edin( 1960) FRCP Glasg(1962) FRCP Edin(1966)

Samuel Lazarus, ‘Sam’, was born in Glasgow, the son of Isaac Lazarus, a jeweller who had emigrated to Britain from Lithuania at the age of four, and Rebecca Lazarus (née Gerber), who had come from Riga, Latvia, at twelve years old. He was the third of four children, of which only he and his younger sister survived into adulthood. The family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne when Sam was four and he was educated at the Royal Grammar School there. He studied medicine at Glasgow University and distinguished himself at the end of his second year by winning the Johnston bursary. In 1933 he graduated with commendation, after which he did his residency appointments in Glasgow Royal Infirmary (surgery) and in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley (medicine).

His initial ambition was to be a surgeon, but he obtained the Faulds fellowship in medicine, which he held under E P Cathcart in the department of physiology, University of Glasgow. He carried out studies on the physiology and pharmacology of the small bowel which provided the basis of his MD thesis, obtained in 1937 with high commendation. From the work on his thesis he had developed an interest in gastroenterology and from 1936 to 1937 he was a research assistant to two of the outstanding workers in this field at that time; E Meulengracht of Copenhagen for six months and with Sir Arthur Hurst [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.509] of Guy’s Hospital, London, for a similar period. 1937 was the year that Hurst was knighted and set up what was to become the British Society of Gastroenterology. Sam was much influenced by the charismatic Hurst. That same year Sam passed the MRCP (London) exam at the first shot and completed his annus mirabilis by being appointed professor of materia medica at Anderson’s College of Medicine, Glasgow, a post he held till 1948, combining it with the acting professorship of physiology at the same college during the war years.

Despite this massive teaching load he managed to continue his clinical experience at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, as extra-dispensary physician from 1936 and dispensary physician from 1939. With the closure of Anderson’s College in 1948 and the inauguration of the NHS, Sam was graded consultant physician at the Western Infirmary with Douglas Stevenson’s unit and continued consultant clinical practice, in addition to his hospital appointment. From April to September 1948 he was research assistant to George Baehr at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, USA.

In 1958 he became consultant physician in administrative charge, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, a post he maintained until his retirement in 1976. While there he was chairman of the medical staff association and a member of the board of management. He also served on the board of management of Gartnavel Royal (Mental) Hospital from 1959 to 1976. He was appointed lecturer and later honorary lecturer in materia medica, University of Glasgow (1947 to 1976) and was honorary lecturer in medicine at the University from 1957 to 1976. He had numerous examination commitments at the University of Glasgow, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The subjects of his published papers were initially related to pharmacology, clinical pharmacology and therapeutics - e.g. actions of synthetic antispasmodics, use of Procainamide in arrhythmias, the investigation and treatment of gastrointestinal haemorrhage, particularly tests of faecal occult blood. He studied the incidence of acute perforated ulcer in Israel, especially related to different population groups. Other subjects included vitamin C deficiency, especially in gastro-intestinal haemorrhage, testing of skin fragility, sulphaemoglobinaemia and tremor in hyperthyroidism.

After his retirement he carried out research on ancient Mesopotamian medicine using translations of cuneiform tablets which recorded observations of symptoms and signs of illnesses, some associated with an outbreak of fever amongst pupils in a temple school, e.g. ‘epilepsy’, itch and the effect of milk on possible adult lactose intolerance. In addition there was a description of conjoined human twin births. Copies of his research work are deposited in the libraries of the three Royal Colleges of Physicians (UK), the University of Glasgow and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sam was a gentle, modest, friendly man of handsome appearance, always elegantly dressed. His warm personality and compassion was reflected in his efforts on behalf of his patients and in his friendships with colleagues. He was a dedicated member of the Jewish community of Glasgow. For over 40 years he served on the advisory board of the Jewish Old Age Home, now named Newark Lodge, and during most of that time he worked on the medical advisory committee of the Jewish Mentally Handicapped Home, now ‘Cosgrove Care’. He was honorary president of the Glasgow Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a past master of the Lodge Montefiore. In the last few years of his life he suffered a few episodes of intracranial haemorrhage, the cause of which revealed itself shortly before his death as a form of leukaemia. He endured this later phase with courage and humour. His personal philosophy, imparted to the writer at another critical time was, "if you live long enough, anything can happen." So he was prepared.

He married Thelma (née Viner) in 1941. She was a source of strength to him throughout his career. They had two daughters, Suzanne and Michele, and a son John, who followed his father into medicine and is now a reader at the University of Wales, Cardiff.

Sir Abraham Goldberg

[Brit.med.J., 1998,316,398]

(Volume X, page 295)

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